Toothbrushing Less Than Twice a Day Linked to Increased CV Risk

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Sue Hughes

May 28, 2010 (London, United Kingdom) — Individuals who do not brush their teeth twice a day have an increased risk of heart disease, a new study shows [1].

The study was published online May 27, 2010 in BMJ; corresponding author is Prof Richard Watt (University College London, UK).

The researchers note that while it has been established that inflammation in the body (including mouth and gums) plays an important role in the buildup of atherosclerosis, this is the first study to investigate whether the number of times individuals brush their teeth has any bearing on the risk of developing heart disease.

They analyzed data from more than 11 000 adults who took part in the Scottish Health Survey, in which individuals were asked about lifestyle behaviors such as smoking, physical activity, and oral health routines. Questions asked included how often they visited the dentist and how often they brushed their teeth (twice a day, once a day, or less than once a day). Information was also collated on medical history and family history of heart disease and blood pressure. Blood samples were taken from a subgroup of participants and tested for CRP and fibrinogen levels. The data gathered from the interviews were linked to hospital admissions and deaths.

Results showed generally good oral hygiene practices, with 62% of participants saying they visited the dentist every six months and 71% reporting that they brushed their teeth twice a day. After adjustment for established risk factors, it was found that participants who reported less frequent toothbrushing had an increased risk of heart disease compared with people who brushed their teeth twice a day. Participants who had poor oral hygiene also had increased levels of CRP and fibrinogen.

Hazard Ratio for Cardiovascular Events (Fatal and Nonfatal) Relative to How Often Teeth Are Brushed Each Day

Frequency of toothbrushing HR* (95% CI)
Twice a day 1.0
Once a day 1.3 (1.0–1.5)
Less than once a day 1.7 (1.3–2.3)
p for trend 0.001

*Adjusted for age, sex, socioeconomic group, smoking, physical activity, visits to dentist, body-mass index, family history of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes

The researchers say: “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to show an association between a single-item self-reported measure of toothbrushing and incident cardiovascular disease in a large representative sample of adults without overt cardiovascular disease.”

They add: “Our study suggests a possible role of poor oral hygiene in the risk of cardiovascular disease via systemic inflammation. Raised inflammatory and homoeostatic responses as well as lipid metabolism disturbance caused by periodontal infection might be possible pathways underlying the observed association between periodontal disease and the increased risk for cardiovascular disease.”

But they note that further studies are needed to confirm whether the observed association between oral health behavior and cardiovascular disease is in fact causal or merely a risk marker.

References

  1. de Oliveira C, Watt R, and Hamer M. Toothbrushing, inflammation, and risk of cardiovascular disease: Results from Scottish Health Survey. BMJ 2010; DOI:10.1136/bmj.c2451. Available at: http://www.bmj.com.

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